Thursday, March 29, 2012

An apology from Spike Lee, and a few thoughts on ethics

It was a short little news item this morning. Spike Lee apologized for retweeting an item giving George Zimmerman's address. The problem, he said, was that it wasn't the Trayvon Martin shooter's address but that of an elderly couple. "I Deeply Apologize To The McClain Family For Retweeting Their Address. It Was A Mistake. Please Leave The McClain's In Peace. Justice In Court," Lee tweeted.

The much bigger problem than the fear Lee's tweet caused among the McClain family, who received threats, is that the new media allows amateurs to spread news, sometimes without thinking. There's a group that's offered a bounty for Zimmerman, and I'm sure there are many people who want him dead. Unfortunately this is America today, which means many of them are armed.

Journalists are taught first to get the facts right, and second to put their messages in an ethical context. Lee -- and the millions of others using new media and social media to spread messages -- are far too often inclined to write first and think later.

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